Best Budget Travel Tips For 2023. Traveling on a Budget (10 Tips for 2023)

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to quite a few places. All without using credit card rewards and without breaking the bank.

These are my top 10 budget travel tips.

Travel in off Seasons

Travel in off Seasons
Travel in off Seasons. Budget Travel Tips

Tip number 1, which is to travel in off-seasons, Obviously, during holidays, spring break, and summer, your flights, accommodations, activities, etc. are going to be more expensive around those times, so if you can, it’s best to travel in odd months or during odd seasons so that you get the best price on your travel.

Book In Advance

Book In Advance
Book In Advance. Budget Travel Tips

Tip number 2 is to book flights and accommodations in advance. Book all of these things with plenty of time left until your trip. So a couple of months out or a month out is probably best. If you can do it even sooner, great. But the closer that it gets to the date that you’re leaving, the more expensive it’s going to get.

If you are taking a Europe trip, you can definitely get really cheap flights if you book a couple of months out. You can get flights or train tickets for anywhere between $30 and $30-$70 roundtrip. And if you don’t need to go roundtrip, you can get them even cheaper. Even though you do want to book your travel in advance, you don’t necessarily want to book activities, tours, and things like that until you get there, and I will share why later in the article.

When you’re booking anything, use a private browser window, because your browsing history can and will affect the price that you see. And my roommate and I tested this, and we saw this firsthand where we would both be booking the same ticket, but one of us wasn’t using a private browsing window, and the prices were different.

For flights, I always like to use Google Flights. It’s super easy to use, and if you have a flexible schedule, it’s great because you can see how the price will change depending on when you want to travel. But after you find a flight you actually want, also go to the airline’s website, because sometimes they run special discounts and promotions based on the destination you’re going to or on the dates that you’re traveling.

There’s also something called hidden-city ticketing. Technically, I think you can get in trouble for this. I haven’t done it, but it’s basically where you book a flight to a different destination that has a layover in the place that you actually intend on going to. And basically, you just get off at the layover and ditch the last leg of your flight.

I’m not saying that you should do it. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do it. I am just bringing it up, and you do with that information what you wish. For booking trains in Europe, I used GoEuro, which I think the name changed to. It’s now Omio. I will put it on the screen. They had a really nice system where you could sort it by arrival times or departure times, and they had tickets pretty much everywhere, and they were usually really, really cheap. I’ll give you a little bit of insight into overnight trains. I did it once. I would not recommend it.

If you’re a very heavy sleeper or if you just anticipate not getting any sleep, go for it. They’re super cheap, which is great, but they’re kind of awful. They’re just like little, tiny boxes that you, ya know, are sleeping in with like 3 other people, and the whole night it’s like, AHHH. If it’s like $40 vs. $400, we can make it work, but you also get what you pay for.

Skip The Hotel

Skip The Hotel
Skip The Hotel. Budget Travel Tips

Tip number 3 is to skip the hotel. And again, this depends on your preference, but if you’re young and you don’t mind a dorm-type setup, then hostels can be a really great way to go, especially if you are traveling alone. Hostelworld and TripAdvisor are great for finding hostels and for finding reviews, but when you are actually booking a hostel, book it through the hostel’s website if they have one.

Now, not every hostel will have their own website, but if they do a lot of it, they will give you a discount for booking directly with them. If you’re not really into the whole dorm-type setup thing, a lot of hostels do actually have private rooms. And it’s basically like a hotel room; you just don’t have the amenities of a hotel. Hostels are great if you’re traveling alone. Hostels will host group dinners or group activities. And a lot of times they will also give discounts because, obviously, if they have a large group of people going somewhere, they can get better rates.

I actually think that the biggest upside of hostels is that almost every single one of them has a free luggage storage room. So if you get to the city before check-in or if you are leaving after check-out time, you have a place to keep your luggage. Usually for free, and you don’t have to worry about dragging it around the city with you.

Another option is, of course, AirBNB. And I feel like this doesn’t really need an explanation. It’s where you rent out a room or a house, and that’s where you stay. But what I did want to say is that AirBNB has referral codes, and you should definitely use them. So my friends and I would do this, where we would all refer each other if it was our first time using AirBNB. And since we were all staying in the same place anyway, we would just earn points on one person’s account and get a discount basically when we were staying somewhere.

Only Pack In A Backpack

Only Pack In A Backpack
Only Pack In A Backpack. Budget Travel Tips

Tip number 4 is to only pack in a backpack. And I know it seems hard, but I promise it’s not that bad. Just don’t do what I did and don’t use a college canvas backpack because it gets wet and it’s just—it’s not good.

Get a nice-quality backpack, but only bring that. With a lot of budget airlines and European airlines as well, they’ll have really cheap flights, but if you want to bring more than just a carryon item, they’ll charge you like $70 for it.

So, you know, it’s cheaper if you’re only traveling in a backpack. Then you don’t have to pay for luggage each way. To pack light, just bring like half the clothes you think that you need because, as long as your hostel or hotel has laundry facilities that you can use, it’s usually only like $1 or $2 to do a load of laundry.

And again, I think that that is more worth it than paying $70 to bring a massive bag onto the plane. Also, when you only bring a backpack, you are less tempted to buy a bunch of junky little
souvenirs that will get thrown away anyway. So just pack light, keep it light, and don’t go filling up another suitcase with souvenirs.

Eat Like A Local

Eat Like A Local
Eat Like A Local. Budget Travel Tips

Tip number 5 is to eat like a local. So the basic things that everyone says are, like, bring food to the airport and pack snacks so you don’t get hangry. Ok, great, good, and yes. All of that is accurate. But when you are actually looking for meals, that is where you can waste a lot of money on really touristy food.

So if you’re near a large tourist attraction or touristy area, just try walking a block or two away, and usually there will be smaller, family-owned restaurants. And the food is going to be a lot better and a lot cheaper. And don’t be afraid if you see locals walking around or if you go into little shops or things like that. Don’t be afraid to ask them where good places to eat are because they will probably tell you. Also, if you’re in an AirBNB, ask your AirBNB host because they will usually know.

You can also save money on food by going to local markets. You can make a little event out of it, make a little picnic, go somewhere fun, or do something like that. But depending on what country you’re in, do be careful of street food. And just use common sense and also look up what other travelers recommend for the region that you are in. Because getting sick in a foreign country is not fun.

Take Public Transportation

Take Public Transportation
Take Public Transportation. Budget Travel Tips

Number 6 is to walk or take public transportation. Walking is going to be the cheapest option, but not necessarily the fastest. As long as you have a route and know the general areas that you want to be in, it’s definitely doable, and I’d recommend it because you see a lot more of the city that way.

A lot of cities will also have rental bikes, which are also a great option, but by bikes, I mean bikes that you physically pedal. If you have never driven a moped, a foreign country is not the place to try it. Stick to your traditional hobbies, like pedaling bikes. Yes. Please. Depending on where you go, walking or biking may not be the best option, or it may just not be feasible at all.

So in that case, you want to look into what public transportation options are available. Passes for trains, buses, ferries, boats, all of those—it’s usually going to be cheaper than using a ride-sharing app. And depending on what city you go to, they’ll usually have different options available at different prices, depending on what you need.

In London, they have the Oyster card, which works on buses and trains. And you basically just put a certain dollar amount on there, and then each time that you ride on public transportation, they deduct that amount from your card. In Venice, they have waterbus passes, and you can get different ones depending on the length of your stay.

So I think they have like 24-hour ones, 72-hour ones, and then week long ones. And the longer it is, the less it costs per day, so just get whichever one makes sense for the length of your stay.

Find deals on Activities

Find deals on Activities
Find deals on Activities. Budget Travel Tips

Number 7 is to find deals on activities and attractions. So bringing this back to what I said earlier, you may want to wait until you actually get there to book any activities because you can usually negotiate the price down. Now if there’s something that you really want to see or that might be sold out, go ahead and just book it beforehand so that you don’t miss out on it. But if there are other things where you’re like, ah, maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t—wait until you get there.

If you are a student, bring your student ID and your visa to everything because you will be able to get a lot of discounts on things that you probably didn’t think that you could get discounts for. A lot of museums and even some hostels will give you discounts just for being a student. Or if you’ve already graduated and you still have your student ID, that works too. Sometimes, once a week or once a month, some galleries and museums will have a free day. So definitely look into that before you go.

The only downside to these days is that, as you can see from this clip, they get a little crowded. Something that you should do is haggle the heck out of people trying to sell you tours outside of major tourist attractions because they will go down in price. They usually have a few set times that tour groups leave. And these groups are almost never full, so as it gets closer to their departure time, they get really desperate to fill the spots, and you can usually negotiate the price down.

So if they’re like $40 for a tour? You can be like $10, and I’ll go on the one leaving now. And after you go back and forth, you can get like a $20 guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, which doesn’t really make sense because they didn’t make any money off of that.

It’s also pretty easy to do when you have another person traveling with you, because these tour-selling people will come at you with a price, and you can be like, “For both of us?” And sometimes they’ll just straight up say yes, but other times they will want to negotiate with you, but you can usually get a better deal if you have someone else.

Figure Out Your Phone Plan

Figure Out Your Phone Plan
Figure Out Your Phone Plan. Budget Travel Tips

Tip number 8 is to figure out your phone plan. Do not let your phone provider rip you off. If you have no foreign travel plan added to your normal plan, they will charge you insane amounts to use your phone every day. And even if you do add on a plan, it’s usually like $60–$120 just for a very small data limit. And if you go over that, they charge that to your account again.

So when you’re not on WiFi, turn off your phone’s data. Or if you’re in that country for an extended period of time, you can get a SIM card, and they’re usually like $20, but it’ll make sure that your phone works in that country.

You can download offline maps with Google Maps, where it just saves that city’s map to your phone, and you can access it without data. You won’t be able to get directions, but you can always see where you are. It has the little blue you are here dot, and then it also shows the little directional field so that you know which way you’re facing and which way you’re going.

Know Credit Card and Bank Fees

Know Credit Card and Bank Fees
Know Credit Card and Bank Fees. Budget Travel Tips

Number 9 is to understand your credit card and your bank fees. Credit cards, debit cards, and banks will charge you a foreign transaction fee just for using their service in another country. And usually that fee is somewhere around 3%, which doesn’t sound like much. But if you are traveling, especially for an extended period of time, those costs can really start to add up. So look up your cards, look up your banks, and make sure you know who charges what.

For credit cards and debit cards, you want to get a card that has no foreign transaction fees. And for this, I would highly recommend CapitalOne 360.

CapitalOne 360
CapitalOne 360. Budget Travel Tips

I’ve used this card in 11 countries so far, and I’ve had zero issues with it. It has no foreign transaction fees, and there are also no fees at ATMs, which is really nice when you need to take cash out. Because usually other banks and other companies will charge like $5 per transaction or a certain percentage per transaction at an ATM.

Something to take note of is that when you buy something in a foreign country, sometimes the card reader will ask you if you want to pay in USD or in the local currency. Always choose the local currency. The reason for this is that whether or not you have a transaction fee card, when it asks you that, if you choose USD, it’s actually the merchant that is charging you a transaction fee. And they get to choose what that amount is.

I had the fortune of experiencing this at an airport when I bought a sandwich. I accidentally chose USD, and then they charged me a 12% transaction fee. So just avoid that; always choose the local currency. You’ll be good.

Use Your Social Network

Use Your Social Network
Use Your Social Network. Budget Travel Tips

So my number 10 tip is to actually use your social network. And this sounds weird, but I mean both online and in person. If you need someone to travel with, put it on your Instagram story. Be like, Hey, I’m going here. Does anyone want to come? Or reach out to people and see if they have any friends or family going to the location that you’re going to be at.

This is by far what saved my roommate and me the most money. We would go and stay with friends of friends, family of friends, or extended family—things like that. And it saved us so much money. If you have a skill that is useful for advertising or if you have a large online following, you can definitely leverage that to get free food and free accommodations.

And you don’t have to be weird about any of this—about asking friends or asking restaurants or hotels. Don’t be weird. Don’t be rude. But you know, as long as you’re tactful, it never hurts to ask.

So I hope that some of these budget travel tips were helpful. And I will see you next time.

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